From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

The Good-Night Kiss

When our youngest child was a toddler, we had a horrible time getting him to sleep in his own bed. For whatever reason, long before morning had arrived in the master bedroom, Nathan was there.

Sometimes I woke up in time to see him crawl over me and slip beneath his father’s arm. Seeing him there beside his father was enough to take my breath away, but we all knew it couldn’t continue. No matter how many times Nathan promised to remain in his own bed all night, he just couldn’t seem to follow the rules.

“Is there something wrong with your bed?” I asked, concerned that perhaps he perceived something frightening in his room.

He smiled up at me, wrinkled his nose, rolled his tongue around his mouth a few times, and then shook his head. “Nope,” he replied, his blue eyes large and innocent.

Brightened by this information, I wondered if I could make his room more enjoyable by letting him help me rearrange it. He already loved his room—that much was obvious. He spent plenty of time in there during the day. But maybe a few more trucks, maybe a really cool night-light?

That afternoon Nathan and I went shopping. You never saw a happier little boy! He picked out a couple of trucks, a coloring book, and another stuffed animal. I figured we’d found the right combination of things this time, and when I tucked him into bed that night, I felt sure my little boy had passed over the threshold.


In the morning a tiny blond head was snuggled beneath my husband’s arm again, his little body pointed at an awkward angle, feet planted firmly into my stomach. I shook my head and looked at the two of them. Then, unable to resist such an adorable photo opportunity, I tiptoed to the dresser for the camera.

Mothers are expected to teach their children certain things, like learning to break away from Mom.

The very next day Tom and I decided our son must be frightened and was obviously running to his comfort zone, which everyone knows is Momma.

So as any good mother would do, when bedtime rolled around that evening, I took my son by the hand. We walked into his bedroom and looked around. I pointed to everything in the room, asking quietly, “Do you like this? Do you want to take this out of your room?”

To each question, his eyes grew rounder and rounder and his head waggled back and forth. I could see he was beginning to worry where this was leading. Finally, kneeling at eye level with him, I asked if there were any “bad” things in his room. He did that adorable tongue-rolling thing and looked around the room anxiously, running one hand through the two blond curls at the base of his neck in a nervous gesture. Ah-ha, so there was some invisible danger. My heart sank. What could I do to make it all better?

Suddenly an idea formed. Smiling broadly, I asked if he’d like me to kick all those bad things out the door. Nathan’s eyes grew enormous.

“Yap,” he crowed.

I pushed my sleeves up and nodded seriously. “Okay. Where are they?”

He raced to his bed and pointed beneath it. I quickly dropped to my knees and pretended to grab a struggling and squealing “bad thing.” I tucked it under one arm while I waited to find out where the other “bad things” were. Nathan pointed to the closet and I nabbed those “bad things” as they attempted to escape.

Nathan squealed in delight. Then he pointed behind the lamp. I stuck one hand under the shade and pulled the “bad things” out by the scruffs of their necks.

When we had them all rounded up, we marched to the front door and I drop-kicked the bundle of “bad things” from our house, yelling after them, “And don’t come back!”

Nathan pointed one stubby finger out the door and yelled, “No come back!”

Satisfied, he looked up at me and smiled. I leaned down to ruffle that perfect little blond head but was a second too late. He was already racing down the hall.

A moment later, I stepped into his room. Hoping the charade had worked, I asked, “Are they all gone?”

“Yap,” he said. Then he hugged my legs tightly and spun around the room one more time, his bright blue eyes scanning every nook and cranny. When he was satisfied, he looked up at me and spread his arms wide. “All gone,” he crowed happily.

I smiled. “Good! Now you don’t have to sleep with Momma anymore, do you?”

“Nope,” he said, his mouth turned up into a precious grin. “You sleep here. Me sleep with Daddy!”

And as fast as his little legs could carry him, he raced to the door and disappeared.

By the time I reached the master bedroom, Nathan was already sliding beneath his father’s arm. I stood in the hallway shadows and sighed. Just as I opened my mouth to tell Tom it was his turn to talk some logic into our son, I witnessed something that will forever be burned into my memory. Tom gently kissed the top of Nathan’s tousled blond head. That was endearing enough to make my heart swell, but when Nathan closed his eyes contentedly and one chubby hand reached up to pat his father’s head, an unexpected lump grew in my throat. When Tom tucked that very small boy beneath his chin and kissed that tiny palm, the lump in my throat grew humongous.

“Good night, son,” Tom whispered.

“Night, Daddy,” Nathan whispered back.

“Momma coming to bed?” Tom mumbled.

“Nope,” Nathan mumbled back.

Within seconds only the sound of their even breathing filled the room. Both were oblivious to the woman in the doorway, tears streaming down her face, the woman who loved them both enough to realize this was not about her at all. It was about a father and his son and their need to be together.

Helen Kay Polaski

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